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A quick guide to downsizing

Harriet Meyer / 27 February 2015

Downsizing is a common trend among older homeowners. It enables you to release equity from a larger family home that’s risen in value, swapping this for something smaller, and more manageable in retirement.

Man doing DIY after downsizing house
The majority of downsizers do so before age 65

This can provide a welcome financial boost, alongside the opportunity to reduce day-to-day running costs. Estate Agency Hamptons International estimates that downsizers release an average of £115,000 when they move.

However, there are pitfalls. Here are some questions to consider before making the move:

1. When should I downsize?

The majority of downsizers do so before age 65. This might seem young, but moving home is known to be one of the most stressful life experiences, so you want to do it when you’re fit and able.

If you’ve lived in your family home where you brought up children for decades, it can also be a hugely emotional time. While the move may be a wrench, broaching the subject of downsizing sooner rather than later could save a lot of trouble.

Read our top tips for downsizing your home.

2. Where should I move to?

A common way to downsize is to sell up and move to a more affordable region, where property prices are cheaper. However, you want to ensure there are friends and family nearby.

Relocating to the country may appeal but, as you age, getting around could become problematic so you need to ensure there are transport options.

Also consider your proximity to shops, a doctor, and any entertainment or sporting options you might want and need. As time goes on, you want to ensure easy access to local amenities.

3. What should I do with my possessions and furniture?

Moving out of a larger family home to a smaller property inevitably means parting with possessions. 

Measure items and work out what you’ve got room for in your new home, and then decide what to do with everything else.

There are several options. You could give furniture to your children, relatives or friends. However, if you think you might be able to fit more than you think in your new home, putting some items in storage over the short-term could work.

Where can you sell unwanted possessions?

4. Should I opt for a specialist retirement development?

These are an attractive option for many older homeowners, as they come with a ready-made community. Some also come with anything from a basic warden service to round-the-clock care if needed at any stage.

Establish whether you can afford a property by finding out what service and maintenance charges are required for its upkeep, taking into consideration building insurance, water and fuel bills, ground rent, and council tax.

Check the details carefully so you are aware of all charges and caveats. You might find that your flat can only be sold to someone that is 55 or over. It’s also wise to confirm that you can resell on the open market.

If you're not ready to sell your home but want to access some of the money held in your property, equity release is another option.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.